What is Growth Hacking in Marketing? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

When is a hacker a good thing? When it's a catalyst for growth through marketing! In this lesson, we'll define with growth hacking in marketing is and look at a few brands who have successfully employed it.

Who's a Hacker?

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term ''hacker''? Is it a darkly-shrouded character sitting over a keyboard looking for ways to do harm to websites and gain authorized access to important data?

If you're honest, that's probably one of the first images you think of. But, this lesson will challenge you to see the concept of hacking in a different way, specifically growth hacking in marketing. How? Because a hacker (despite the bad ones out there) isn't all bad. It's a person who finds solutions to technical problems using a high degree of creativity and skill. In marketing, a person who engages in hacking takes it one step further. Let's take a closer look.

Growth hacking is not unlike a computer hacker who uses his or her skills to find solutions to technical issues.
growth, hacking, hacker, marketing

What is Growth Hacking?

From the term, you can probably guess a general definition of growth hacking. In marketing, the concept of growth hacking is about creating as much growth for a brand as possible using experimentation and creativity, while at the same time, keeping expenses low.

You see growth hacking most commonly in start-ups, or new businesses, who need to generate interest and traffic for their products and services. And, like most start-ups, it needs to happen quickly on a very limited, if non-existent, budget.

Growth hacking looks for strategies and tactics that can help grow a business efficiently, whether that's more traditional methods such as using social media, or thinking outside-the-box through guerrilla marketing efforts, including graffiti marketing that uses streets and sidewalks as a giant canvas to display a message, like this one:

Graffiti marketing could be one tactic for growth hackers.
graffiti, marketing, guerrilla, growth, hacking

Now that you know more about what growth hacking in marketing is, it's time to look at a few examples of businesses using different types of tactics to turn their start-ups into big-time players.

Growth Hacking in Action

If you want to see growth hacking in action, look no further than hospitality industry disruptor Airbnb, file hosting service Dropbox and the popular dating app, Tinder.


When Airbnb came on the scene in 2008, it was aiming squarely to knock off the market leaders in the hospitality industry. But, like all new businesses it had to start at the bottom and work its way up. One of the ways it vaulted to success was through growth hacking; in particular, leveraging the free online marketplace of Craigslist. When users create a listing on Airbnb, they get an option to cross-post it to Craigslist, generating access to rentals in more than one location. Surprisingly, Airbnb's decision to market through a free channel like Craigslist wasn't a tactic many businesses were taking advantage of and it was a decision that paid off.

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